VIDEO: Antonio Goss Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the sixth part in an eight-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's positions. Antonio Goss details the Eagles' specialists for this report.
Carson-Newman's return game for 2019 will be stocked with veterans. Desmond Fairell and Antonio Wimbush have been returning punts for C-N for three years running, while Marcus Williams and Ray Artybridge handled kickoff all last season.
Fairell needs just 30 more yards to move into the top 10 in Carson-Newman history for career punt return yardage. He has the ninth highest punt return average in program history.
"He's so natural," Goss said. "He's natural catching the ball and making guys miss. His ability motivates other players on the field."
Fairell is coming off a season where he amassed 193 yards of punt returns, 14th highest all-time. He scored Carson-Newman's first punt return for a touchdown in 12 years last year against Virginia-Lynchburg.
If Fairell isn't the answer on punts, Wimbush is a strong option. While he only returned two last year, Wimbush posted 156 yards returning kicks in 2016 on 18 returns.
On kickoffs, Marcus Williams returns after a quality red-shirt junior campaign. He averaged 24.5 yards per return on 16 kicks, bringing one back 96 yards to the house against Limestone.
His counterpart Ray Artybridge also was solid last year. Artybridge returned 12 kicks for 272 yards last year with a long of 56.
"Marcus and Ray have great speed and athleticism," Goss said. "The biggest thing there is the core of that unit that blocks for them. They know that both of those guys have a chance to take it to the house at any given moment. Their mindset is to strain a little bit harder so that that has a shot to happen."
While Carson-Newman's return game is the same as years past, college football's rules are not.
For a number of years, the three-man wedge has been illegal on kickoffs. This is when three players on the receiving team align shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other to block for the ball carrier. Beginning in 2019, this rule is even more restrictive: the two-man wedge will be illegal and will carry a 15-yard penalty. As in the past, the wedge is not illegal during an onside kick or when the play results in a touchback. The only change is that the two-man wedge is outlawed.
"It goes back to holding that coach accountable," Goss said. "We absolutely have to put our best people on special teams because you're asking guys to make plays in space."
Among Carson-Newman's specialists, Dawson Campbell is back for his senior year as Carson-Newman's long snapper.
"Dawson is a coach on the field," Goss said. "He's that extra hand you need on your team to have if you're going to win a championship."
Incoming freshman Nate Craft has established himself as the guy on kickoffs, field goals and PATs.
Craft twice earned first team all-state honors for Stephen Magenbauer at Salem High School. He set the Spartans career record for points with 272.
"We're very fortunate to have Nate here," Goss said. "We just have to keep him tuned up and ready for game day. He, and the rest of our kickers, have done everything we've asked in practice. He just has to be ready for game time situations."
Craft hit 205-of-211 point-after attempts in his high school career, and knocked in 20-of-26 field goals. Craft helped Salem to a state title his final three years with the program. He hit a game-winning field goal to win a state title his sophomore year.
Drew Eudy is a strong option at punter. He was the reserve punter his freshman year. He had a long boot of 45 yards.
Carson-Newman's position previews continue Tuesday with a glimpse of the Eagles' linebackers with assistance from Scott Brock.